By Stan Fagerstrom
Product Review Editor
October 13, 2011
No bass man’s tackle box is really complete if it doesn’t carry at least a couple Johnson Silver Minnows.
Those are my sentiments and they’re based on decades of experience. You’ve a right to disagree, of course, but only if you’ve given these old beauties a fair chance to take bass out of the heavy cover where they work so well.
If you’ve read my last column (click here) you know I’ve been throwing Silver Minnows into bass-holding cover for more than the past seven decades. These old lures have written their share in my sizeable book of fishing memories.
Many of these memories came during the 35 years I lived right on the shore of Silver Lake, the best bass and panfish lake in Western Washington State.
Early in the year at Silver Lake I often fished the Silver Minnow way back in the pads and close to the actual shoreline. If you ever fish similar cover, that’s where you’re most likely to find bass early on. They’ll move toward deeper water as pad growth thickens and the water warms.
When they did get to the outside edge, I kept my boat about 20-feet away from the pad field edge and threw the Silver Minnow back into the pad field indentations and pockets. If you do the same, keep your Silver Minnow on top and slithering its way back between the pads.
The Silver Minnow is about as weedless as they come, but don’t let it work its way into the “V” of a pad top. Sure as you do you’ll hang up. The “V” in those pads is a real lure gobbler. Always endeavor to control the path your lure is taking as it wiggles its way back to the boat.
You’ll find a longer rod makes it easier to maneuver the Silver Minnow through the pads. I throw them with a G.Loomis MRX 783 casting rod most of the time. This is a 6 ½-foot rod. Keep your rod tip up and watch what you’re doing and you can steer a Silver Minnow through some really thick pad cover with a rod of this or longer length.
Keep an eye peeled for openings in the pads during your retrieve. Every now and then I get into good fish by letting the Silver Minnow flutter down into such holes for a heartbeat or two. Once it gets down a couple of feet I give it a sharp twitch with my rod tip. The hits are most likely to come as the lure as the lure darts upward and away.
These days I don’t throw the Silver Minnow as much as I once did for just one reason---I don’t run into the type of cover that demands it nearly as often as those days on Washington State’s Silver Lake. Even so, let me get around lily pads, reeds and grass and you can bet one I’m going to show the bass what one of those lures can do to ‘em.
Today the Silver Minnow comes in a variety of sizes and colors. I’m often asked what I favor in either size or weight of these long time lures.
That question is easy to answer. My favorite size is the one that weighs a half ounce. This size is a Number 2 Silver Minnow. I’ve tried it in sizes both larger and smaller but it’s always the half ounce model I find myself going back to.
My memory tells me the Silver Minnow originally hit the tackle shelves in just two shades. They were available in either a silver or gold finish. Today these same lures can be had in nine different finishes and in sizes ranging from 1/8th-ounce to 1 1/8th ounce.
My favorite shade is the one made in a gold finish. I’ve undoubtedly thrown this more than I have the others, but for just one reason---it’s the one that has brought the best response from the fish. I’ve put more fish in the boat with that gold minnow than the other colors combined.
The lure eventually also became available in black. I’ve used that effectively a few times right at dark but that is about the size it. If I was restricted to just two shades for the rest of my fishing it would be the gold and silver with which I got started.
Another of the features I like about the half ounce Silver Minnow is the ease with which it can be handled with a casting rod and a level wind reel. It’s easy to get all the distance you need even while fishing heavy cover where you’re always going to want strong line on your reel.
Speaking of line reminds me that those new super strong but small diameter braided lines now marketed by most of the major line companies are ideal for use with a Silver Minnow. I throw mine nearly all the time with 20 to 30-pound Power Pro.
This lure with its usual pork or plastic trailer is sufficiently heavy to let me get all the distance I need on the cast. If a good fish takes hold back there in the cover I’m going to throw the blocks to it. I don’t fool around with a leader for fishing heavy cover that’s made to order for these fine old baits.
Your line is a cinch to get wrapped up in one thing or another if you nail a fish in heavy cover. I like the way the braid I use slices right through cover like pad stems as if it was equipped with a pair of sharp scissors.
Ever consider using a small spinner ahead of your Silver Minnow? You’re missing a bet if you haven’t. As I mentioned in my first part of this column series I saw it happen once while I was a press observer at the Bassmasters Classic. I’ll provide the details in my next column.